The Parliament has put forth a paper proposing comprehensive changes to the system of governance from a presidential system to a Westminster system. 

Although the proposed changes are not yet formal bills and have not received government or party endorsement, they offer food for thought for parliamentarians as they gear to debate on the country’s political future. 

The Parliament has already passed a motion calling for a public referendum on re-deciding on the system of governance. At today’s sitting, parliamentarians were scheduled to debate on clarifications sought by the Elections Commission (EC) including the question that should be on the referendum ballot. However, the debate was delayed due to the Parliament failing to meet quorum requirements.

The paper aims to redefine the roles within the executive and legislative branches, introduce new accountability mechanisms for elected officials, and provide a significant overhaul of existing governance structures.

Proposed Parliamentary System

Interlinked Executive and Legislative Branches

Under the proposal formulated by the parliament, a parliamentary system would tightly integrate the executive and legislative branches of the government. A Prime Minister, elected by a parliamentary majority, would handle government functions and be accountable to the Parliament.

The President’s Role

In an interesting departure from many parliamentary systems, the proposal includes a directly-elected President serving a five-year term. The President would act as the head of state and have a variety of duties, including appointing the Prime Minister, calling general elections, and filling independent posts—all of which would be done in consultation with the Parliament.

Powers of the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister must be a Member of Parliament (MP) who enjoys the majority support within the legislative body. If a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister is passed by the Parliament, the Prime Minister would have to resign, leading to the formation of a new government.

Judicial Oversight

In the proposed system, Supreme Court judges would be appointed by the President, although their removal would be subject to parliamentary approval. Lower court judges would be appointed and removed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Proposed Accountability Measures

The Recall Vote

The parliament’s proposal also brings in a recall vote, allowing constituents to remove an elected MP during the term through a secret ballot. If an MP fails to secure 50% of votes during this recall, he or she would have to step down, thus enabling a by-election for the seat.

Removal for Party Crossing

MPs elected on a party ticket would be automatically expelled if they were to defect from their party. Similarly, independent MPs who later affiliate themselves with a party and then defect would also face automatic removal.

Distinguishing Aspects from the Current System

Currently, the Maldives operates under a presidential system where MPs can be disqualified on several grounds, such as having unpaid debts decreed by court or being convicted in a criminal case. The parliamentary proposal aims to go beyond these grounds by adding layers of public-driven accountability through recall votes.